What is a hula hoop?

A hula hoop is primarily a hoop which can be twirled around the waist, neck, or other limbs for both leisure and exercise. The use of hula hoops as toys has been documented from as early as 3000 BC. Also, the hoops themselves have had various uses and meanings throughout history. As an example, hula hoops have been used in circuses in Russia and China since the 1960s. They continue to be used across the world today. Here at Space Plans we promote hula hooping for exercise and for fun. However you may be interested to know how the hoop began, what it was used for and where the hoop was invented.


Where was the hula hoop invented?

It is impossible to say exactly where the hula hoop originated. As people may have been using them across the world at the same time, and for different purposes.

Hula hoops in Ancient Egypt

We know that Egyptians were carving reeds and other sturdy grasses into circles around 5000 years ago, for both exercise and fun! Children would roll these hoops with sticks or whirl them around their waist, as we do now. In what we may now deem to be circus-activity, the hoops were also thrown into the air to make displays and perform tricks.

Hula hoops in Ancient Greece

Where was the Hula Hoop Invented? | The History of Hula Hooping

Image sourced from: Wikipedia, Musée de Louvre

In Ancient Greece, the primary hoop material was grapevines. These hoops were used mainly as exercise equipment. A vase in the Louvre depicts Ganymede – the king of Troy – rolling a hoop! Despite hula hooping appearing to bea popular form of exercise for the ancient Greeks, there is no evidence that the pastime appeared in the early Olympic Games.

Hula hoops in North America

There were two main groups of people using what we would now call hula hoops in the North American continent. These include Eskimos and Native Americans. Eskimo children used these hoops not as a form of exercise or leisure, but rather to practice their harpooning skills. They did this by rolling the hoop and then throwing a pole through it.

Native Americans, on the other hand, used (and continue to use) these hoops as a form of storytelling. To them, the hoop symbolises the never-ending circle of life. For Native Americans, hoop dancing is a traditional activity: dancers would use reed-hoops to represent animals such as birds or insects, and to construct symbolic forms. This form of storytelling is still very much present today. There is even an annual Native American Hoop Dance competition in Arizona.


The modern hula hoop

The name “hula hoop” first came about in the 18th century, when British sailors first became witnesses to hula dancing in the Hawaiian islands. After noticing that the movements were similar to those using hoops, they coined the term “hula hoop”.

The modern hula hoop – that is, the one made of plastic – was invented in the 1950s, by toy company Wham-O. The plastic version was so popular that in 1958, 25 million had been sold in less than two months. Just over 40 years later, the much-loved toy was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in New York.


Hula hooping with Space Plans

After learning about the rich history of the hula hoop, why not try it for yourself today? Here at Space Plans, we boast a variety of Hula Hooping workshops to help you reap the physical and mental benefits of the activity which has been loved for so long. Whether you’re interested in learning to hula hoop as a form of exercise, or just for fun, we are proud to offer classes that are both challenging and enjoyable.

If you found this blog interesting, take a look at a previous one: Have Fun & Learn Easy Circus Tricks At Home